MERIDEN — The manager of a popular Mexican eatery hopes to keep the restaurant in the city despite plans by the property owner to demolish the building to make way for an auto parts store. But a lawyer representing the property owner said a lease termination agreement is already in place.
Frontera Grill’s manager, Marco Lopez, said Thursday he was not aware of any plans to move the business out of its 800 E. Main St. location and wants to keep it there. The property owner recently submitted a plan to the city to demolish the restaurant and build an 8,000-square-foot Advanced Auto Parts store. The owner also filed an eviction notice.
“Our main goal is to stay in Meriden,” Lopez said, adding he would prefer to stay in the current location. “It’s a great location in Meriden and we like it here. It’s a nice city and people seem to like it here. We’ve been doing well ... We hope we are in Meriden for many, many years.”
The property is owned by 800 East Main Street LLC, of which Robert Cole is listed as a principal. Cole is a real estate broker with Arnold Peck’s Commercial World. Frontera of Meriden LLC is owned by North Carolina resident Edgar Brambila. Attorney Dennis Ceneviva, who is representing 800 East Main Street LLC, said Brambila is on board with the plan to demolish the building.
“Mr. Brambila and his attorney (Allan Kroener) are fully apprised as to what the terms are,” Ceneviva said. “That has been negotiated. Maybe the staff does not know ... The agreement calls for a certain date coming up soon for them to move, but Mr. Brambila’s attorney asked for an additional month because they are looking for some extra time in Meriden.”
Kroener could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
News of a possible Frontera move upset restaurant patrons. Dozens of people commented at MyRecordjournal.com and the news generated hundreds of comments on Facebook groups and forums. Many of the comments expressed disappointment that an auto parts store could be built in place of the restaurant.
Although some speculated that city officials were working to make the deal happen, Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski said she preferred to keep the restaurant in its current location.
“We would not be encouraging the demolition of a local eatery,” Burdelski said.
Burdelski added she has been contacted by several residents who want to see the restaurant stay. She also responded on the Record-Journal website and visited with Lopez Thursday to discuss possibilities.
“We agree that this is a nice community restaurant,” she said, noting the city is offering assistance should the restaurant have to relocate. “(Lopez’s) position is he has a lease and he wants to stay.”
Mayor Manny Santos said he was told the restaurant will likely move based on a “business decision,” but added the city has made an attempt to keep the business.
“The city has engaged in some discussion with the owner of the business,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of seeing if there is a particular reason why they want to move out and what it is and anything the city can do ... Ultimately it is a business decision.”
Frontera opened in 2013 in a former Friendly’s Ice Cream restaurant.
A site plan application is set to be presented to the Planning Commission on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. City Planner Dominick Caruso has said an auto parts store would be allowed under zoning.
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